Don’t go throwing around the phrase “hunters turned hunted” around Michigan basketball head coach John Beilein these days. While the Wolverines are coming off of a Big Ten regular season championship, with the giant rings to prove it, Beilein has Michigan hungry for another run with zero focus on the handful of pre-season top 5 projections being thrown around nationally.
Reeling in one of the most highly touted recruiting classes to have rolled through Ann Arbor in recent memory coupled with as the return of one of the country’s premiere point guards in the nation in Trey Burke, all of that contributes greatly to the skyrocketing expectations of the 2012-13 season.
"I think John Beilein’s always going to have a chip on his shoulder,” said Beilein Wednesday. “You can never worry about that. I'm always trying to find a way to be the best team that we can be, in every single fashion that we can do that. And I hope my team reads that.”
With an NCAA rule change that allowed college basketball coaches the unique opportunity to work with their student-athletes one on one or in group settings during the summer, the Wolverines were able to improve and enhance their skill level exponentially as Beilein and the staff prepare for the usual 20 hours per week schedule beginning with practice this Friday.
"We just worked on our skill level on offense all summer,” said Beilein. “Defensively, these first two weeks have been 75 percent defense, thinking what is the easiest thing we can teach our guys? Defend, rebound and run. So if we can do those, you don't have to run as many plays, you don't have to do as many things.”
Also reaping the benefits of the added summer and fall development are members of the much ballyhooed freshmen class who have acquitted themselves well in the little over three months they’ve been on campus.
"What I've really learned is that they really want to be coached and they like our culture and they are embracing it,” said Beilein. “There hasn't been any pushback of 'well I'm used to doing this, how come I have to do that now.' For example, 'I was sort of open, the next guy was more open, why do I have to pass it to him when I have done this my whole life?' They have just said, 'okay, if that's what we do, that's what we do.'”
Employing primarily four guard sets has been what the Beilein offense does, specifically throughout his five seasons in Ann Arbor. With 6’10, 250 pound big man ,Mitch McGary, 6’6, 210 pound Glenn Robinson III, and the return of 6’10, 250 pounder Jon Horford and redshirt freshman Max "the Moose" Bielfeldt, the Wolverines will have some added beef inside. They will also have several lineup options to tinker with throughout preseason camp.
"We have really six (players) that could play there at different times, so that is the versatility that I love to have,” said Beilein. “But it is difficult. I mentioned again today, that four-man is a pivotal guy now on teams.”
“If you look in the NBA playoffs, who was playing the four-man for Oklahoma City late?” added Beilein. “It was Kevin Durant. And who was playing four-man for the Heat? That would be LeBron James. So that four-man sometimes can go so you have four guards out on the floor or you could play really big.”
What Beilein won’t have to worry about playing around with is a backcourt in Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. that returns a plethora of experience and talent.
The groceries have been thrown in the cart, purchased and brought home. Now it’s time for Beilein and the coaching staff to preheat the oven, whip up a nice meal that consists of a possible 14th conference championship and maybe even a little dessert if the mood should strike.
“I've always felt that if you can compete for a Big Ten championship, you can compete for a national championship,” said Beilein. “And if we are indeed one of the best league's in the country, then it follows right along. Everybody dreams big.”
To watch video of Beilein’s press conference from Media Day 2012, press play below.
Full transcript courtesy of MGoBlue.com
Opening statement ... "Welcome back everyone. It is great to have you here. It is great to be in position to be the head coach at Michigan in 2012-13. We've had what I think is a very productive offseason if you go back to the spring. And then the NCAA allowed us to have 16 hours of summer workouts with our team, as well as the additional weight training hours that we were able to be a part of. Then we just finished 12 hours of actual skill work again. So we know a little bit more about our team, but it is nothing like we are going to find out starting Friday when we are with them for 20 hours a week. We're enthused about it. The workouts have been good, the injuries have been small and nothing that is bothersome at this point. The attitude is great. The effort has been great. The will to be coached, the will to go to class -- all the things that have allowed us to coach basketball for the most part. They are still 18 to 22 years old, so there is always that part of development off the court that we are working at, but at the same time we are really excited to begin this edition of Michigan basketball.
"You probably have more questions for me than I could give you insight to right now. I will tell you one more thing. I am really excited about the renovations as they come to completion here. The William Davidson Player Development Center is almost complete right now. I think you'll all see a part of that as we go along the line. For Kim (Barnes Arico) and I to be practicing -- it is a sensational venue to go in and practice while Crisler was being redone. I've only had one look at Crisler about a month ago, the top of Crisler. It's amazing. It looks like a brand new building, like we built a $200 million building. It is going to be a tremendous asset to us as far as recruiting, etc. That is really natural, but I think what is really going to be best about it is that it's going to be so fan friendly. Our fans will really enjoy coming to see Michigan basketball, both men's and women's, in this environment."
On if Zack Novak's leadership skills have been passed on to 2012-13 team ... "His presence will be felt for a long time. Four years from now people probably won't know of him like they do now. I think Mitch (McGary) helps bring that in as well. There are some guys he lived with -- with Josh (Bartelstein), and Matt Vogrich, Tim Hardaway (Jr.), all guys that were close to him along the way, Jordan Morgan, all of our veterans. How could they not be close? Zack was really instrumental in everybody's life. So yeah we feel it, but we have to get away from that at some point. Now there are new people that need to step up and do that. New people need to step up and give everything else up for the team. That is the culture. That is what we have been trying to create for years and hopefully it will continue."
On if he knows the team's starting five ... "The first two weeks I try to just pair them up and not show any preference, put two or three freshmen on one team, put two or three freshmen on the other team. Same with anybody we are trying out at new positions. And for two weeks we just watch everybody and see how natural they are or if there are adjustments being made for the freshmen. That is one thing that we did not do during this time, is get much into that. We got much more into skill development and just defensive development opposed to team development as far as five at a time. So the next two weeks I probably won't tell you anymore, but I'll know more."
On Trey Burke's work in the weight room ... "I mentioned this morning on a couple radio shows that he weighs 190, and it is a good 190. He has worked very hard in the weight room, all our guys have. Once again, John Sanderson has done a remarkable job. There are two things that a strength coach has to be able to do. He has to know what he is doing, he has to know his craft, he has to be really good at it. But he has to connect with young men. And he has done both so well, that they like to go to the weight room. And believe me, it is not a waltz in there. They are working their tails off. Trey has really worked his body stronger. If you watch the game right now, he is involved in so many ball screens and he has the ball so much. The point guard has to be in a similar type of shape as a middle linebacker (or) a running back that is running it 40 times a game. That is the type of shape and strength that a point guard needs today."
On his expectations for Tim Hardaway Jr. during the offseason ... "He had a whole bunch of things that he was working on from our postseason meetings that he worked on in the summer. First of all, doing more than just being a shooter, working on other parts like scoring, rebounding, things like that. Keeping his composure through thick and thin, depending on what it is. He is very emotional. He is very driven, and it is a good thing, but channeling that in the right directions. All things I think he has worked on so far. I think he has had a tremendous summer and even a better fall from what I see. I just like his attitude. He's taken a little bit of Novak as far as you can hear his presence. A different type of presence, but you can hear it. That was pretty much left up to Zack in years before."
On how much better he expects the team's rebounding to be this season ... "I do see it in practice right now. And maybe it's because we are missing too many shots, I see how important rebounding is. It is a different way of scoring. There were teams where we didn't have a great inside game -- over 30 some years -- so we didn't' throw it in a lot, but we were good at outside shooting. This is a good rebounding team. If we show that all through the season, it is okay to score off an offensive rebound. We haven't got a lot of that. If we can get 10 points off offensive rebounding, either through kickbacks or finishes, that's a good thing, because that has not been the norm. In rebuilding programs it's not like you come in and you get this tremendous rebounding team every year. We finally go to that point. I have to make sure that is part of our offense, offensive rebounding, because we do have the talent there, Mitch (McGary) and Jordan (Morgan) in particular."
On how much he has been able to learn about the freshmen during workouts ... "What I've really learned is that they really want to be coached and they like our culture and they are embracing it. There hasn't been any pushback of 'well I'm used to doing this, how come I have to do that now.' For example, 'I was sort of open, the next guy was more open, why do I have to pass it to him when I have done this my whole life?' They have just said, 'okay, if that's what we do, that's what we do.' Whether they are sharing the ball or getting in the stance and playing defense -- really receptive. I don't like to judge between teams, but as intelligent as I have had coming in over the summer. Maybe that has to do with the 16 hours we had in the summer, but it is one thing to get information, it is another thing putting it right into action. Glenn Robinson has had a couple of times where he took information, he gathered it and he was doing it 10 minutes later. With all our freshmen, we've seen that."
On if Glenn Robinson III has been the most receptive freshmen he coached ... "No, I think they all are. It's just a blind example. But it is really interesting to see the level that they've been able to just pick up a new term. And as they transition into college basketball, you walk out there and there are three assistant coaches, a head coach, a trainer, a strength coach. We are all out there working. They've got all these people and they might have been used to one voice, and now this is a whole different thing. They have embraced it. At times they get confused, but that's great. We had a great moment yesterday. We got done with practice, it was the end of our preseason and we had Josh Bartelstein, Corey Person and Eso Akunne -- three guys that very rarely play -- all had freshmen pulled out to the side saying 'okay this is exactly what were just talking about, you can do this.' It was really a good moment for me walking off the court saying 'there is a lot of teaching going on, it's not just from the coaches."
On the depth of the Big Ten ... "Every coach says this, I have never seen it like this where we have nine or 10 programs that have had two or three years to get things in the right direction. I felt like when I got here, and maybe I'm wrong, there were like five or six that were in place and the rest of them were just -- who is going to be the sixth or seven team, was what everybody was fighting for. Now it might be who is going to be the eighth or ninth team that could get into the NCAA Tournament. Just look what Minnesota did last year. They were a heck of a team. You could see that. They had two road wins in the NIT, they were in the championship of the NIT, and they were trying to get into that top seven or eight prior to that. So many people have so many people back. It is as good of a league as I've ever seen. I'm assuming that the coaches that have been here a long time in the league, and there are only a couple of them -- probably Bo Ryan (Wisconsin) and Tom Izzo (Michigan State) could answer that, they go back 20 years -- how good is this league right now? I think it is pretty good."
On balancing how to use the freshmen this season ... "That is the balancing act that I'll really have to work at. What's important now, or what is important to their future or our future? And we are scrambling with that every day. Here is the perfect example. Tim Hardaway's freshman year it took us 15-20 games to put him in the ball screen, because at the beginning he wasn't as comfortable with it. It changed our season when we had two guys as primary handlers. So now we are in the same thing with some of our guys. What can they handle now, what is too much? I'm thinking every sport you go through this. When does a baseball pitcher start throwing off-speed stuff when he is trying to get to the major leagues. You don't want to do it too early, you don't want to take away his fastball. That is a thing we have to do. It's important, and that's our job and I won't be perfect at it but I'll keep working at it to get them to accomplish both goals. Number one is for the team to win right now. But number two, to develop them as much as they can for our team in the future and there future after this."
On handling expectations ... "I think John Beilein's always going to have a chip on his shoulder. You can never worry about that. I'm always trying to find a way to be the best team that we can be, in every single fashion that we can do that. And I hope my team reads that. I don't think we'll be anything where we come into this thing thinking we are anything more than just 15 guys with four coaches that are out there working so hard, just to enjoy every day to really work as hard if not harder than anybody -- to be smart, if not smarter than other teams. Just keep working at that. That keeps all that other stuff away. Every season is a roller coaster. I'm sure there are going to be games that we didn't do as well as we would have liked to of, and maybe that crept in there somewhere. But there are going to be other games where we play well and it was like 'hey we played with a sense of purpose that has a chip of the shoulder.' I hope my teams are always like that."
On if he feels his squad is a top-five team ... "Do I feel that? I don't even pay any attention to that. How would I know that if I didn't know what anybody else had? I know Michigan has a team that we are trying to develop to find their potential. Now, I'm not in other people's practices. I have no idea what other people have. If people base things off just recruiting, they are probably going to be wrong a lot more than they are right -- if you look at it whether it is us or somebody else. Look at people over a long run of what they do, that is how you best find out. We have a chance to keep improving every day and we have a chance just like all the teams in the Big Ten to go after a championship in the Big Ten."
On Jon Horford's development ... "He and Jordan Morgan spent a lot of time in the weight room over the summer working out on their own. He is taking the smallest steps sometimes you can take and sometimes steps backwards to take another step forward, but he is one persistent young man and he keeps working and working and working and he has had some workouts this summer with some of the similar mistakes he has made before -- fouling right away, doing things he knows better than. He catches himself. There are those 'ah-ha' moments where you say 'he is really improving.' Better than any of that, his teammates love him. He loves his teammates and they love playing with him."
On how much he anticipates roles changing at the four and five positions ... "We have really six (players) that could play there at different times, so that is the versatility that I love to have. But it is difficult. I mentioned again today, that four man is a pivotal guy now on teams. If you look in the NBA playoffs, who was playing the four-man for Oklahoma City late? It was Kevin Durant. And who was playing four man for the Heat? That would be LeBron James. So that four man sometimes can go so you have four guards out on the floor or you could play really big. It depends on who you are playing. When Jon got hurt I didn't feel like we ever had a choice last year. We weren't developed that much the year before, and what we were doing was working as well as we thought we could do. I like having that option. Who knows how this will play out really."
On if the goal is to win the Big Ten title ... "I think it is the same goal. I think that it will always be the same goal. I think that is throughout the University of Michigan. I've always felt that if you can compete for a Big Ten championship, you can compete for a national championship. And if we are indeed one of the best league's in the country, then it follows right along. Everybody dreams big. We honor that 1989 team, and what they did was such a tremendous part of Michigan lure and Michigan basketball history. There are a lot of ways we measure ourselves. One of the primary ones is Big Ten champions, as hard as it is to do. We've only had 13 of them. We've been playing basketball for a long time. And that is a good number compared to other teams in the league, but it is still always going to be the primary goal."
On Nik Stauskas' three-point shooting ... "He's just got a natural ability to find the bottom of the basket. What separates Nik is, what we hope will make him a very difficult guard, that where some guys are just shooters, Nik, if you come out on Nik he can put the ball down on the floor and get to where he wants to go to. Some guys can do that and then can't throw drop-off passes and see the court. He has been able to do that thus far. With that being said, we see that, we like it, now we've got to defend. I sense he is embracing (defense), because he knows that is how he gets to do the other stuff. Like most shooters, they love shooting the ball. I would sense that if he continues doing what he has been doing so far, he among some others will have a pretty green light to let it ride."
On if he has to temper expectations of the freshmen ... "All we want them to do is follow our expectations, which would be -- be a team player, work really hard, work in the classroom. There is nothing to temper. What they need to do is just follow along what we want them to do and then it all seems to work out. They've done nothing to do that. They are looking around, 'alright what did Matt Vogrich just do, what did Tim do, how did Trey doing this?' and then they follow along. That's the expectation. And if they just do those things, all those other expectations will probably take care of themselves. So it is not a run-around of the question, it is just the truth. There is nothing to do there but to follow the leaders, and the coaches and the veterans are the leaders."
On having two natural point guards on the roster ... "That was big, because last year there was really no one that really felt comfortable in that situation, so it was I know Trey is tired, I know Darius (Morris) is tired, but let's call a timeout and get them some rest and make sure they are going to bed on time. We have a lot of confidence in those two that we can use those 40 minutes more productively than we have in the past, where we don't have to use a timeout, even if it is a couple minutes rest. We love what we are seeing from Spike (Albrecht), we do. And we all saw the great things Trey could do last year. But what was key to our season last year was not just Trey, (it) was Stu's (Douglass) ability to put the ball on the ground and just make some things happen. In the Purdue game against a great defense down at Purdue, that was maybe a Big Ten championship type of game because we won on the road where few people are going to win. He can do that. Timmy has worked tremendously on that. Nik can do that, Caris LeVert can do that."
On Nik Stauskas' ability to shoot with a defender in his face ... "He shoots it before they get there a lot of times. But if they do get there, yeah, he can deck the ball, and Caris does as well."
On if he did anything differently this summer to prepare this team ... "We used those 16 hours to do almost all offense, thinking that you can work on defensive (plays) all summer. We just worked on our skill level on offense all summer. Defensively, these first two weeks have been 75 percent defense, thinking what is the easiest thing we can teach our guys? Defend, rebound and run. So if we can do those, you don't have to run as many plays, you don't have to do as many things. We've been working on defending and rebounding. Now, we will try and put more of a package together. It is interesting conversation right now. I don't know what we are going to do yet, until I watch people over 20 hours and the 20 more hours and then 20 more hours and then when we get to the Big Ten schedule we'll be able to make other changes."
On if the coaches studied film of other teams this offseason ... "We studied ourselves. No, not really. I think we watched the NBA closely, much closer than before and cut more tape than we ever have about different things they do when they have two primary post players in there."
On how much the team is using last year's NCAA Tournament loss as motivation entering the season ... "I don't think at all. We haven't spoke about it at all. We are very proud of our Big Ten championship. We know when you get into that the goal is to stay and win until you win it all. But based on our Big Ten championship we felt good about it. If we are blessed enough to get back there again, then we'll talk more about that. But right now it has been more about just getting better and being champions again in everything."
On any players who are not practicing due to injury ... "Corey Person has a little bit of a foot stress issue, but everybody is pretty much back. There is some rehabbing going on and some small nagging things that we've tried to use this time to get them well. But we hopefully will get through those first two weeks without anything major. The foot stress problems we had two last year so we are trying to do whatever we can to avoid that again."
On choosing team captains ... "I don't think there was any doubt last year that it was going to be Zack and Stu at this time. We are going to really watch these first three weeks and see who the leaders are. I don't think we are in that type of position to name that yet. The players will have a say, the coaches will have a say. We need to gain more information."
On if he feels he has to sell Michigan basketball on the campus ... "I've never really thought too much about that. We are one of the few schools that has won a national championship in football and basketball. Michigan basketball has been up and down over time. We are trying to get it so it is as consistent as our football program has been. We sell Michigan. Anybody who thinks we are just a football school, we are an athletic department from top to bottom that is second to none anywhere in the country and men's basketball is part of that. We are happy to be a big part of that. We are enthused. We're recognized for a lot of sports."
On if he sees Tim Hardaway Jr. playing more the two or three position ... "I think both. We like him in both. He is obviously very natural as the three man and he knows what he is doing over there. We have a couple between Matt and Glenn and Nik and Caris, they are all options. It is where we get people most comfortable. And again, in two or three weeks we should know more, and then we'll start our season and say 'let's more in a different direction.' And then in the Big Ten, we might move in a different direction. But right now we like that he is versatile enough to play both, he enjoys both and he is so driven he can accomplish anything he wants to."